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Dateline Cowichan: Guthrie dominates political landscape

Duncan Mayor Jim Quaife was all tied up during Bonanza Days in 1969. - courtesy Cowichan Valley Museum and Archives
Duncan Mayor Jim Quaife was all tied up during Bonanza Days in 1969.
— image credit: courtesy Cowichan Valley Museum and Archives

We’ll soon begin to see a build-up to next year’s provincial election — the 39th since voters went to the ballot box in 1871.

By October 1941, C.C.F. representative and Ladysmith farmer Samuel Guthrie had served for eight years in Victoria as the member for Cowichan-Newcastle. In the 1920s, he had been an elected Labour member.

The formidable politician took on two other strong contenders in the 1941 election — Liberal Arnold Flett, a Holstein-Friesian farmer from the Maple Bay area and Edmund Neel of Eagle Heights.

Guthrie, born in Scotland and a union activist there, quickly joined the fledgling union movement on Vancouver Island and worked in coal mines and logging and railroad camps.

Opponent Flett was the grandson of Cowichan pioneer John N. Evans. Both his grandmothers had shown decided spunk: one came round Cape Horn in 1854 on a gruelling six-month voyage; the other crossed the United States plains in a covered wagon.

Neel, Guthrie’s other rival in the election, spent eight years in the consular service in Portuguese East Africa before coming to Cowichan in 1908. He was considered a specialist in the culture of irises and also originated the Cowichan poppy.

Guthrie won again.

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